Let me address something first and foremost, maybe the most important thing we will talk about here. Ever. I have been sitting on this for two years now, and need to share it with you guys: my Tyrone Swoopes puns. Here they are:
- Swoopes there it is (I know, but I had to say it)
- We come on the Swoopes John B., my grandfather and me…
- You make me wanna Swoopes, Swoopes, Swoopes
- My Swoopes-tie (that’s Sir MIX-A-LOT)
Okay, there wasn’t that many. Mostly I just wanted to say Swoopes John B. So, that was a very, very tough loss for Texas, but considering all that’s happened I don’t have (m)any complaints. I thought Texas fought, had success and found some go-to guys. But there still issues that need to get worked out. Let’s get to the post-mortem and the off week.
TEXAS 17 No.12 UCLA Bruins 20
That was an hard-fought game with lots of big hits and an exciting finish, and by “exciting” I mean *!&%’n #*@!!#er. So, so, so close. Credit to UCLA for being keeping their head with “Ricky Jerry” as Charles Davis said in the first half. So, so, so close.
But there are no awards for so close, and no participation awards at Texas. The Horns are 1-2 and get a week off before conference play begins. What happened Saturday night?
Lots of things going on for a low-scoring game and lots of takeaways. On with it.
Tyrone Swoopes. The final touchdown drive. The defense in the first half. Jerry Neuheisel (hey, you have to tip the cap to the kid). Will Russ. Chemistry. No turnovers. Jordan Hicks. Did you guys see my Swoopes John B. thing?
The %&!# coin toss. The first drive of the third quarter. Special teams (excluding Will Russ). Jordan Hicks. Punt block team. Clock management at the end of the game. That punt return. That bubble & go. Desmond Jackson’s ankle injury. One of the commentators saying “that would have been good from 50!” on the 48-yard UCLA field goal. It’s six feet, fellas.
The In Between
So what’s the deal with the home/away jerseys? I was told it was it was an away game, then I was told it was a home game, then Texas comes out in the whites. LOST. Jason Hall.
Let’s do this. Here’s what I saw on Saturday night:
Offensive Line: Texas and UCLA settled into a backup quarterback duel after Brett Hundley went down in the first quarter with an elbow injury, and the difference was the offensive line. The Bruins had an experienced unit that put the offense on their shoulders, while Texas was asking a bunch of teenagers to carry the load. That’s a lot to ask of a unit with 10 combined starts. I know I keep saying this, but it’s going to get better. They now have 15 combined starts. I saw some growth and development, but they still struggled. Kent Perkins is going to have nightmares about UCLA. Everyone young, inexperienced offensive tackle has nightmares about someone. This is yours, big man. For the first two games UCLA couldn’t really get into the backfield, but they sure did against Texas. Learn from it and move on.
This is going to be a big week of film study for the OL, who will see what they need to work on. Where Texas goes from here is up to them. I surely wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than last week and if they keep progressing on the learning curve, they’ll be fine.
I saw some nice things run blocking, but they struggled with the blitz at times.
Wide Outs/Tight Ends: Jaxon Shipley was held out of most of practice last week with concussion-like symptoms, but was cleared late in the week. It was good thing for Texas and Tyrone Swoopes, because he was lights out: nine catches, 65 yards and he was Swoopes’ first read the entire game. It’s too bad Swoopes got heavy pressure on the bubble screen throw to Shipley in the second quarter, because it was going for a touchdown had it been a little lower. It was a day that Texas needed something from the vets outside, and Shipley brought his game.
Also bringing his game was John Harris. The senior is reborn under the new staff and is the playmaker of the unit. He finished the night with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown, and two of his catches were the offensive highlights of the night. With the game tied at three and a little over three minutes to play in the half, Texas faced a 4th & 8 at the UCLA 38. Too far for a field goal and too close to point, Texas went for it. Rolling out to his right as the pocket collapsed, Swoopes launched a deep ball down the sideline. Harris broke from the coverage and made a leaping catch, bringing to it down at the five. Three plays later, Texas took the lead 10-3. Play No.2, trailing 13-10 with five and change left and at the UCLA 8-yard line, Harris ran a perfectly squared-off out route and Tyrone Swoopes hit him stride for the touchdown. It was a great route, a great throw and a great drive to take the lead. Harris, though, still needs to be more consistent as he dropped a pass whilst wide open on the final drive. But like Shipley, Texas needed some playmaking outside from the upperclassmen and they got it from Shipley and Harris.
Marcus Johnson was impactful as well with four catches for 40 yards and OMG did you see MJ McFarland score a touchdown? A TOUCHDOWN? A TOUCHDOWN!
Running Backs: Inconsistent play up front last week totally negated the running backs and they were unable to overcome that. This week was a totally different story. Malcolm Brown
led the team in rushing with 69 yards on 14 carries (4.9 yards-per-carry) and Jonathan Gray seems to be completely back, running for 49 yards on just seven carries, including a monster 30-yard run late in the game that set up that John Harris go-ahead touchdown. And this week Texas used them more in the passing game as the combined for five catches. I was hoping it would be more productive, but I liked the fact they tried. It’s a shame that Daje Johnson was out, because he has a gear out of the backfield that the other two do not, and the backfield passing game might have been more successful with him out there.
But he wasn’t out there, and the guys that were played pretty well all things considered. Jonathan Gray- PICK UP YOUR FEET.
Quarterbacks: Tyrone Swoopes completed his first 11 passes of the game, this after starting last week with eight straight completions. On the night he was 24-34 for 196 yards and two scores with no interceptions. He looked poised, confident and unphased. He rolled out and surveyed the field well and his arm strength is fantastic: watch the fourth down play where he hits Harris on the 33-yard pass. He rolls right and delivers a dart on the run. Likewise that td pass to Harris late in the game as a laser that the coverage had no chance of defending. It was perfect.
I think something everyone is just going to have to understand is that Tyrone Swoopes is not Vince Young, or Colt McCoy he is not a guy that is going to spin move and juke out of tackles and pick up big yards rushing. He’s good for 10-15 yards, and that’s great, but there won’t be too many pump fake 80-yard touchdown runs like VY had. That’s just not him. There is a difference between mobile quarterbacks and rushing quarterbacks, and Swoopes is a mobile quarterback. Texas will run him to be sure, but they won’t ask him to carry the ball 20 times; they want him to play his game and so far he is doing that well: 67.7% completion rate, 372 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception.
And he’s going to get better every week. The bye week should serve him well.
Defensive Line: Again, a beast: seven tackles, three for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Malcom Brown was the best player on the defense for Texas and he completely dominated the first half. I don’t remember his name being called nearly as much in the second half, due in large part to the loss of Desmond Jackson with ankle injury, but the guy is a force inside and playing at an awards candidate level.
I thought the entire dl played well, combining for 32 tackles. The highlights were eight from Caleb Bluiett, seven from Shiro Davis and six from Cedric Reed, who was lethal off the edge forcing early throws and pressure.
They wore down in the second half and definitely missed Jackson in the middle. The ability to stuff the run without him in there was not very good and UCLA took advantage, running right at the nose.
Linebackers: It was harsh to add Jordan Hicks to the “Bad” list considering he had 12 tackles, two for loss, a pass defended and qb pressure. But on the first play of the second half, with the Texas offense playing better and a lead, Hicks completely whiffed on a run up the middle that went for 58 yards and set up UCLA for the game-tying touchdown. That wasn’t a trick play that was designed for big yards, it was a simple handoff up the middle that Hicks sees every single day in practice and misplayed it. With an offense struggling to get everyone up to speed, those missed tackles cannot happen. It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is right now. Even still, a good day and light years away from last week.
Steve Edmond had a horrible game last week and responded very well this week with a team-high 13 tackles and what should have been the game-changing forced fumble. I’ll take 25 combined tackles from the top two linebackers every week. Where was Peter Jinkens?
Sometimes the other guy is pretty good, and this is one of those times. The front seven needs to address the opponent running game when Jackson is out, because that was one of the differences in the game. Still, I liked the effort and the production.
Secondary: The kids in the secondary showed their youth at times, and other times they got fooled or just got beaten. On the first play of the second half, Jordan Hicks missed that tackle and then Jason Hall missed him four yards later, opening the door for that 58-yard run and the game-tying touchdown drive. Facing a 4th&1 in the fourth quarter in a tie game at the Texas 28, UCLA ran Myles Jack up the middle, but the line was collapsed so he bounced outside. Adrian Colbert crashed from outside and had Jack in the backfield for a loss, but he missed the tackle and Jack got up the sideline for the first down. The result of the drive was a field goal, but Texas had a chance to get off the field and could not.
One thing UCLA did extremely well was block the secondary on those quick throws and screens outside. It seems like every time UCLA ran that play in the second half, it went for six or more yards and set them up with good short yardage options. I would have liked to see Texas be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage with those wide outs and force them to go deep…
… And ultimately they did that very thing. After the big punt return, they ran a “a bubble and go” and Duke Thomas tried to jump the bubble route, a pump fake from young Neuheisel caught him flat-footed, the safety was slow to react and the result was the game-winning touchdown pass. Charlie Strong said in the post-game they knew it was coming. And still it worked. With the front seven struggling to stop the running game, the secondary was definitely thinking run first on that last drive, and UCLA caught them.
Special Teams: This is the reason Texas lost the game. If Texas cannot get their special teams figured out, they will cost Texas more games. The coin toss. My son’s fifth grade team had a coin toss. They got it right. In both games. And by “got it right” I mean they followed directions, from their coaches and the referees. They will tell you what is happening. They will say “Do you want to kick or receive?” to the coin toss winner. When the response is “We defer to the second half” the referee will ask the other team what they want to do. When that happens, the answer is WE WANT THE BALL. The referee will walk you through it. I don’t have the words, but it looked like Charlie Strong had words for it. All of them bad. And it was totally warranted.
Texas’ go-ahead score in the fourth quarter was followed by a kickoff out of bounds, but the defense bailed them out. The offense stalled on the drive, and then a false start (by Josh Turner, freshly reinstated and contributing a penalty) negated a beautiful, high punt from Will Russ that would not have been returned for such a long gain. Maybe. But had to re-kick and while it was a monster, it was much lower, much faster and allowed more room for the return man. And you all know what happened from there.
Do we have to fair catch EVERY SINGLE punt? Not even a stat line for Jaxon Shipley, who not only fair caught every punt, he fielded one on the five-yard line. I don’t understand the philosophy of the punt return game. Well, I don’t think there is a philosophy in the punt return game.
And while I absolutely love Marcus Johnson on the field, I don’t think he’s a kick returner. All the kickoffs he returned, it seemed like he was waiting to get tackled rather than trying to make a play. Maybe the blocking was so bad he didn’t have a choice. Maybe it’s both. I think it’s time to look at the entire unit and start over because Texas is getting absolutely nothing from the unit at all.
And two running-into-the-kicker penalties for Jason Hall? TWO??? That’s three special teams penalties in three games. I know the second one was very suspect, but DON’T GET THAT CLOSE TO HIM. AGAIN.
I have a buddy that says Hall reminds him of Kenny Vaccaro and that’s a good comparison as both are aggressive, excitable and talented. But three special teams penalties in three weeks cannot happen.
“Accountability” is the mantra around the football team, and someone needs to be accountable for the special teams because up to now they have been awful. The offense and defense played well enough to win on Saturday, but the special teams let them down.
Not you, Will Russ. You averaged 50.5 yards per punt last week. That is OUTSTANDING.
Besides the special teams, I don’t understand the clock management at the end of the game. Leading 17-13 and forcing a fumble with 4:17 to play, Texas rushed for five yards on first down. And then, inexplicably, they went no huddle and snapped the ball with about 20 seconds on the play clock. It was an ugly zone read that looked hurried and forced and the result was a five yard loss. And then on third down, again with about 20 seconds on the play clock,Texas threw the ball, which was an incomplete pass that was thrown about three yards. The Longhorns, needing to run out the clock or get it as close to zero as possible, took 1:11 off the clock and made UCLA use zero timeouts. What?
In the post-game both Shawn Watson and Charlie Strong said they stuck with the up-tempo offense because “it worked last time.” That’s all fine and good, but with a 4-point lead and the ball doesn’t the offensive goal change to running clock, getting first downs and ENDING THE GAME? It should.
Special teams and clock management are two things this team must address, and both are on the staff. I liked what I saw from Swoopes, the offense and the playcalling until the last 4:17. I thought the defense was lights out and did enough to win the game.
Again, we are going to take our lumps until the youth gets experienced, but there are things the staff can do to help them out. I thought offensively they did that last week and the result was much, much better. Sometimes the other guy is better. It was a frustrating loss for Texas because they were so close. Charlie Strong said “We need to learn to finish.” Indeed.
I like the progress, let’s keep it up.
THIS WEEK IN THE BIG 12
No.20 KANSAS STATE (2-0/1-0) BYE WEEK
Friday, September 12th
No.8 BAYLOR 63 Buffalo Bulls 21
As expected. This looks like a Baylor/ou race at this point.
Saturday, September 13th
WEST VIRGINIA 40 Maryland Terrapins 37 OT
The Neers got up big, then lost the lead, then fought back and won it in OT. Quarterback Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns and Kevin White had 13 catches, 216 yards and a score and Mario Alford had 11 catches for 131 for two scores. Maryland qb CJ Brown had 402 yards of total offense (161 on the ground) and it was back and forth all day. A big win and some payback for WVA, who are much farther along than I expected them to be.
KANSAS 3 Duke Blue Devils 41
Did anyone go to Chick-FIL-A? I love that place.
Arkansas Razorbacks 49 TEXAS TECH 28
Tech has some issues. They can’t stop the run, evidenced by the seven touchdowns they gave up to the middling Arkansas Razorbacks. And that defense for Arkansas is pretty average as well, and the fact their terribly high octane offense managed only four touchdowns against a team that probably will not go bowling is a huge problem. I think the honeymoon will be over KK at the end this year.
IOWA STATE 20 Iowa Hawkeyes 17
When does Kirk Ferenz lose his job? The guy is one of the highest paid coaches in college football and they are, well, they are who they are. Mark Mangino beats Greg Davis once again, and the Big Ten is terrible.
Minnesota Golden Gophers7 TCU 30
See? Terrible. Southwest Purple led the game 24-0 at the break (actually they led 24-0 with 9:03 to play in the second quarter) and coasted to the finish line. The Frog defense held the Gophers to 268 yards total offense and just 99 yards rushing and forced five turnovers. A good start for the Horned Frogs.
UTSA Road Runners 13 OKLAHOMA STATE 43
Daxx Garman threw for 315 yards and two scores and Desmond Roland had 95 yards rushing and two scores and the rebuilt Oklahoma State defense held UTSA to just 206 total yards. Swoopes John B… That was solid, right?
Tennessee Volunteers 10 No.4 oklahoma 34
This week the Town & Country Warriors South had their first roadie, to Round Rock. It was a dominant defensive effort as they set up the offense with a few turnovers, one returned for a touchdown, and a safety. Final score: Warriors South 22, Round Rock 6. There was a punt, that went as you expect a 5th grade punt to go. There were two passes broken up, one tackle and on one of those pbu’s No.47 was THIS close to taking it back for a touchdown. He’ll tell you it was the gloves, but when pressed he’ll fess up and say he dropped it. A great effort and better result in week two.
Have a good week, peeps, and we will reconvene on Thursday.